You might have heard before that vegetables lose nutrients when they’re cooked and so eating them raw is always best.
But for some veg, you might be surprised to learn that’s not actually the case (and thank God, because who wants to crunch through mountains of raw carrots and broccoli for the rest of their life).
So, here’s the best way to cook veggies and maximise their nutrition:
To boil, blanch or roast?
If boiling veg is your go-to method, you might want to reconsider. That’s because when you boil veggies, especially for a long period of time, nutrients leach out into the water – and unless you’re making a soup, that nutrient-rich water is often just tipped down the drain.
Instead, quickly blanching, steaming or microwaving veg is a good way to retain those all-important nutrients. Roasting, grilling or stir-frying them for a short time is A-okay, too.
It’s worth mentioning that some nutrients are more susceptible to loss or damage through cooking than others. Think folate (which is key in DNA synthesis), thiamin (for energy production) and Vitamin C (to support your immune support). But, all nutrients are not lost – not even 50 per cent – so you’re still getting some no matter how your veg are cooked.
On the flip side, cooking can be a good thing when it comes to other nutrients. Tomatoes, for example, contain an antioxidant called ‘lycopene’ that is protective against cancer – and when tomatoes are cooked, their lycopene content increases. Carrots which contain carotenoids that are important for eye health are another example, because cooking them actually busts open the cell walls, making the carotenoids more available.
Another thing to consider
Cooking isn’t the only form of food processing that has the potential to change the nutrient value of food. Peeling your veggies, for instance, can significantly reduce the fibre content, as well as remove many of the vitamins and minerals that lie close to the skin. For that reason, throwing away your veggie peeler is one of my top tips when it comes to maximising nutrients. You’ll just have to rely on a bit of elbow-grease to scrub your veggies clean instead.
The best way to cook vegetables
At the end of the day, I think the best way to cook your veggies is the way that you are most likely to eat them (after all, so many of us don’t eat enough in the first place). While cooking some veggies results in small nutrient losses, cooking others boosts the nutrient content. Whether your veggies are raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or roasted, they’re still full of nutrition – and you’re doing your body a world of good just by eating them.